Friday, March 21, 2008

Resource Materials for the Educated Voter and Parent

Book Suggestions

Any or all of these books are great resources and can be ordered through for pennies on the dollar.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mason schools look ahead after pulling out of SAU 63

The following piece appeared in the Union Leader. The school board and the committee to decide the contract with Newport that expires in 2010 should be open to all possible solutions that best meets the needs of the children, parents and taxpayers of Croydon.

Mason schools look ahead after pulling out of SAU 63
New Hampshire Union Leader Correspondent
Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2008

MASON – After nearly six years, the Mason School District declared its independence from the Mascenic Regional School District last Tuesday. Now, the town has until 2009 to determine where its students will attend school.

By a vote of 946 to 617, Mason earned its right to leave the Mascenic Regional School District, which includes the towns of Greenville and New Ipswich.

"We're obviously very pleased," said Mascenic School Board member Dr. Chris Guiry of Mason. "But now we have a lot of heavy lifting to do."

The town of Mason has been trying to withdraw from the Mascenic School District for nearly six years, but its intentions were met with resistance from the state Department of Education and the towns of New Ipswich and Greenville, with which it educates students in grades five through 12.

However, last year the Department of Education gave its blessing to Mason's withdrawal plans, and on Tuesday, a majority of voters in Mason and New Ipswich agreed to allow the withdrawal to move forward. Though voters in Greenville defeated the warrant article, there were enough votes in the other towns to carry it.

Over the years, Mason has argued that it's been paying an unfair share of the educational costs of the district, while at the same time not seeing its desired educational goals being met. The new Mason School Board, which will have to be elected, will have to purchase its elementary school from Mascenic at a cost of $750,000. And over the next year, the district is going to have to determine whether to tuition students to Milford or North Middlesex, Mass., starting in September 2009.

The Milford School District voted last Wednesday to allow the district to enter into tuition agreements with other towns, according to board chairman Peter Bragdon, so that option is very much on the table for Mason.

But the Mason withdrawal isn't the only shakeup happening for Mascenic. Beginning next year, Mascenic will pull out of SAU 63, which includes the districts of Wilton, Lyndeborough and Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative.

Mascenic will go on to form a new SAU, while Wilton and Lyndeborough will retain the title of SAU 63. As a result of the split, Mascenic will incur an additional cost of about $37,000 a year, and Wilton and Lyndeborough's three districts will face a combined annual increase of about $175,000, according to Superintendent Francine Fullam.

Quotes of the Day
"Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you." Benjamin Franklin
“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Edmund Burke

Visits to our site.

Unbeknownst to us the Argus Champion
placed our BLOG link in their paper. Because of this we have had a large number of visits to our site. Please visit our mission statement page if you are new to this site. The purpose of our site besides what is noted on our mission statement page is to educate the people of SAU 43 and Croydon about the darker side of public education. We hope that you will read this site in full especially the educational resources. We focus on all aspects of public education including curricula, PTA, teacher's union, pensions, school districts, legislation, budgets, salaries, etc to show the parent and voter how intertwined they all are and how it all works against the parent, child and taxpayer. We hope to give you as much information as possible so that you may make an educated decision when going to the polls.

We also encourage all residents to get copies of all contracts and budgets from the SAU offices so they can make educated decisions when going to the polls.

Remember that public schools are nothing more than government schools.

Quote of the Day
"Government does not have a revenue problem; government has a spending problem. Government does not have a revenue problem; government has a priority problem. It is time that we begin to fine tune our focus and decide what the priority of government ought to be."
Marsha Blackburn

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

School boards wrestle with conflict policies

The following piece appeared in the Union Leader.

School boards wrestle with conflict policies
Union Leader Correspondent
Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2008

EPPING – A conflict-of-interest policy that led two Epping School Board members to resign is an issue that many boards around the state have wrestled with as they've debated whether relatives of board members should be hired for school jobs.

A change made to its Epping's policy in January that now bars family of a school board member from being hired for school supervisory positions came just weeks before former board member Sue Kimball's husband was hired as the district's facilities supervisor.

Kimball resigned from the board to avoid a conflict.

Last week, board member Pam Tibbetts walked out of a school board meeting after abruptly resigning when questions were raised over the policy.

Tibbetts' mother was hired this year as a paraprofessional, but the policy didn't apply to her because she's not serving as a supervisor.

Concerns over potential conflicts are nothing new. In Raymond, the school board's nepotism policy prohibits the hiring of close family members. Under that policy, the board isn't allowed to hire any teacher or other employee if the person is a father, mother, brother, sister, wife, husband, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law or brother-in-law of a board member or the superintendent.

The policy states that if a conflict arises, the board member must reveal his or her interest and refrain from discussing or voting on a nomination or other issue.

The policy doesn't apply to a person who was employed by the district before the relationship, the adoption of the policy or a board member's election.

In his two years as Raymonds acting superintendent, Michael Shore said he couldn't think of a time when the board had made an exception to the policy.

That's not the case in Hampstead. The school board there has a similar policy, but it allows exceptions.

Hampstead School Board Chairman Natalie Gallo recalled times when relatives of board members were hired if they were qualified for the job.

"I don't think somebody should not be able to run for a certain position because another member is part of the school district or the town," Gallo said, who spent more than 30 years as a librarian and media generalist in the Hampstead School District.

Gallo said it's more important to look at what the person could contribute to the school. Often, she said, members of the same family look for ways to get involved in their community, which could mean serving on the school board or working for the school district.

"I don't think of this as being conflicts of interest," she said.

Of the seven districts in School Administrative Unit 16, only Stratham has adopted a nepotism policy. SAU 16 Superintendent Arthur "Skip" Hanson said he's seen a few cases where spouses of board members have been hired, but for the most part the lack of policy for the other districts in the SAU hasn't been a problem. The SAU serves Brentwood, East Kingston, Exeter, Kensington, Newfields, Stratham and the Exeter Region Cooperative School District.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Public Pension Price Tag

The following piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal and appears on the Manhattan Institute's website. This is a nationwide problem and one we are facing here in New Hampshire as well. Currently our legislators in New Hampshire are trying to enact legislation reform but unions across the state with a combined 70,000 members are fighting pension reform which will be at the expense of we the taxpayers.

Public Pension Price Tag
August 21, 2006

By E.J. McMahon

The recent enactment of sweeping changes in federal laws governing private pension plans, the issuance of a scathing auditors' report on the collapse of San Diego's pension fund, and the disclosure of potential shortfalls in New York City's pension funds all point to what should be the nation's next big target for financial reform. Because their size and complexity offer such a wide field for abuse, state and local retirement systems pose a significant moral hazard—threatening the long-term fiscal stability of many of their sponsors.

San Diego's storyline—marked by deliberate underfunding, increases in already generous retirement benefits and the use of debt to refinance payments—has had eerie parallels across the country. Only 43 of the 125 retirement systems in the most recent Public Funds Survey were within 10% of full funding status; one-quarter had actuarial funding ratios below 80%. But if private-sector accounting standards were applied to these systems, they would all look much worse.

In determining a system's necessary funding levels, a crucial consideration is the discount rate applied to future obligations: The lower the rate, the larger the contributions required to maintain "fully funded" status. Private plans are required to discount their liabilities based on corporate bond rates—which are usually lower than these plans' projected returns on investments.

Public funds, however, are allowed to discount their long-term liabilities based on the assumed annual rate of return on their assets—which, for most public funds, is pegged at an optimistic 8% or more. In other words, the risk premium in the investment target is compounded in the liability estimate. (This accounting twist also explains how politicians can claim, with straight faces, that pension obligation bonds are a nifty arbitrage play.)

If the liabilities of public pension funds were valued on the same basis as private funds—using, for example, the 30-year municipal bond rate as the discount rate—funding requirements would be dramatically higher. Estimates of the nation's real public pension funding shortfall range from an added $500 billion for state retirement systems to at least $1 trillion for all public systems.

The 8% rate of return assumption, while shared by some major corporate plans, is certainly open to question. But public pension fund managers are in a pickle: If assumed returns were reduced, even "fully funded" systems like New York's would find themselves tens of billions in the hole—as shown by alternative calculations buried in financial reports for Gotham's retirement systems. And so, in the name of protecting taxpayers from having to pay higher contributions in the short term, funds expose them to more volatility and risk over the long term.

Public pension funds used to be run on more of an insurance model, heavily reliant on fixed-income securities. But over the past 40 years, the vast expansion of government at every level has vastly expanded the pool of public pension liabilities. This leads to a vicious cycle: As the employee head count rises and unions lobby for bigger pension entitlements, funds feel pressure to pursue riskier investments with higher returns—which explains their increasing reliance on stocks, as shown in the nearby chart. But when returns exceed expectations, as in the boom market of the 1990s, politicians and fund trustees feel irresistible pressure to raise benefits again.

Meanwhile, their increased presence in the equity markets has turned public pension funds and their managers, like California treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, into major players on Wall Street. And as my colleague Nicole Gelinas has documented, in the wake of corporate accounting scandals, public fund managers have pushed further into corporate boardrooms.

In reforming private sector pensions, Congress and President Bush were motivated largely by a desire to provide greater financial security for current and future retirees threatened by corporate bankruptcies. The public sector is different: Governments can't go out of business, and their retired employees are in no danger of being left high and dry. Guaranteed under state laws and constitutional provisions—that is, by the taxpayers—public pensions are far more secure and more generous than those offered by private-sector plans.

The overriding concern of public pension reform should be to reduce the taxpayers' exposure to accounting and financial risk now and in the future. Here are four essential steps towards that goal:

Shift to defined contribution plans for all future workers. In short, stop the bleeding. Because traditional defined-benefit plans rely on contributions from younger employees to finance the benefits of long-term workers, this shift is in no way a quick fix for under-funded systems. But the alternative—maintaining defined benefit plans, but with lower benefits for the newly hired is worse. As long as an open DB plan exists, it will be a target for political and financial manipulation.

Immediately recognize and fund the full cost of any benefit increase. The ability to amortize benefit increases over decades is one reason why politicians and unions have been able to sell pension sweeteners as a free lunch. Closing this window would be a disincentive for future giveaways.

Expand financial reports to include alternative funding assumptions. Simply requiring public funds to adhere to the same financial standards as private funds sounds tempting but it would be extremely disruptive, sharply increasing volatility and boosting contribution requirements. Following the lead of New York City's actuary, government financial reports should clearly show how funds would balance if assets were marked to market and if liabilities were discounted at market rates.

Gradually lower the required rate of return—and invest accordingly. Over the long term, this is an essential step for reducing the taxpayers' collective risk. It also would reveal the true economic costs of current benefits.

Fraught with financial complexity, the growing public sector pension burden fundamentally poses a test of political wills. Although benefits for their current members are legally untouchable, union leaders derive substantial power from the existing system and will battle any attempt to change it—as they did in beating back Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt last year to establish a 401(k) plan in California. Today, improved accounting practices can at least force elected officials to face up to the price tag of their rash promises. In the future, they must turn from union lapdogs to taxpayer watchdogs.

Mr. McMahon is director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The following piece appeared in the Union Leader. If the Unions get their way it will bad news for us. Please take the time to write your legislators and ask them to do what is best for the taxpayers and state of economy for New Hampshire ask the not to pander to the public unions.

State House Dome: Unions unite to fight for retirement reform
State House Bureau Chief
Sunday, Mar. 9, 2008

Unions that represent 70,000 public workers and retirees have joined together to fight for their version of retirement system reform.

They plan to go on offense this week as the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition, starting with a press conference tomorrow morning. Many of the groups in the coalition have been working on this issue for more than a year as the Legislature works to pump up the New Hampshire Retirement System's finances and fund continued medical benefits subsidies for retirees.

In the past, the unions have split over details of pension reform, and there's no saying that won't happen again. But right now, just about every public employees union in the state is on the same side.

Among the groups in the coalition are the Professional Firefighters Association, the State Employees Association, National Education Association-N.H., American Federation of Teachers-N.H., American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the police and fire chiefs associations and the New Hampshire State Troopers Association.

House Bill 1645 would end annual 8 percent increases in medical subsidy payments, require workers to fund the account that pays for cost-of-living increases, and cap pensions for new workers at their base rate of pay at retirement. It also sets up mandatory performance audits every three years, and changes investment procedures and ethics rules.

Unions say the changes don't address the "shell game" that retirement study commission chairman Bill Bartlett described for lawmakers in January. Public employers would put money toward the pension, then get some of it back as money moved through a series of special accounts.

The coalition complained in a press release Friday, "The legislation fails to address the misguided practice of lowering the appropriate contribution rate necessary from employers to fund the core of the pension, the medical subsidy and cost of living adjustments. HB 1645 will serve to increase costs to taxpayers and puts vital public services at risk."

At the same time, the New Hampshire Municipal Association is organizing towns for a lawsuit it will file if the Legislature requires employers to cover more of the medical plan cost. It argues the change would be an unfunded mandate, barred by the state Constitution.

The city of Concord is the latest to consider joining the effort, which NHMA figures will cost about $500,000.

House members who find the retirement discussion confusing will have a chance to get the picture clear Thursday at 10:30 a.m. when consultant Kate McGovern discusses the study commission report and findings.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Town Meeting

Jim and I both had pieces of information to handout at the Townhall Meeting. Neither one of us did and we probably should have handed out our information. We have attached the information for people's reference. If you know anyone who would like a copy we have some here and would be glad to send it to them via snail mail.

Jim's Pieces

Motion for Town Meeting 2008

I motion that we pass a reduced version of the school budget, replacing the proposed Article 2 in the amount of $1,249,081 and that the vote for this via secret ballot.

Information regarding motion:

1. This is $25,000 less than the board’s proposal. Estimated tax impact is -$0.07 per $1,000

2. The board’s proposal represents a 6.71% increase. This proposal represents a 4.6% increase.

3. With inflation for 2007 at 2.85% (, the increases represent 2.35x and 1.61x the rate of inflation respectively.

4. The rationale behind the $25,000 reduction is based on these reductions:
a.)Eliminate the position of Principal: $3,500. Previous budgets had $0 allocated for this purpose.

b.)Eliminate pay for the school board: $1,500. Large districts throughout the U.S. rely on volunteer school boards. Any board member wishing to resign in light of the loss may yield his/her position to me.

c.)Reduce the Special Education budget: $20,000. The board’s budget proposes a 39% increase in Special Education spending. A $20,000 reduction would still leave the District with a 29% increase.

I motion that the vote for Article 4 be conducted by secret ballot.

This warrant should be defeated because:

1.)It is 100% larger than last year’s Special Ed capital reserve warrant.

2.)Combined with Article 5, the district budget calls for $30,000 to be added to the Special Ed Capital Reserve Fund, six times the amount added to the Building Capital Reserve Fund.

3.)The Building and Transportation funds are transparent and easy to understand. What is the function of the Special Ed Capital Fund? Why do we need one?

To the people of Croydon,

I urge the people of Croydon to reject Croydon School District Article 2, the request for appropriation of $1,274,081 for the operation of the District. This budget represents an increase of 6.71% over the 2007 budget. In 2007 we saw our education tax rate climb by 87 cents (93 cents if you include the increase in state property tax) per $1,000 in spite of over $2.5 million in added property valuation. This year, the proposal for Article 2 alone is expected to add 25 cents to our education tax rate. All education warrants taken together would add 63 cents to our already high education property tax rate.

Some items, like $25,000 of the $80,000 cost of a school bus do not appear on the 2008 warrants. One might expect the absence of large one-time costs to erase much of the proposed increase. Yet this is not the case.

To the board’s credit, they have done quite well in some areas controlling costs. It is also more than fair to say that some of the most egregious spending increases come from our neighbor to the south. Case in point is the 81.5% budget increase in “SAU Services”. This is a complete waste of money that provides no education whatsoever. It is a direct result of Newport’s failure to make sufficient cutbacks in the wake of Sunapee’s departure. Look at SAU 43’s website and check the staff listing. You’ll see eighteen names, eighteen! This doesn’t even include school administrative staff, its only the SAU!!

But not all questionable expenditures can be laid at Newport’s doorstep. Croydon is planning to hire a Principal for our one-room schoolhouse of 23 students. And there is the ever upward-creeping poorly monitored “Special ed” expenditures, budgeted to increase by 39% this year alone. Warrant Article 4 doubles last year’s Special Ed appropriation and should also be rejected. These are areas in which Croydon can and must make budget cuts.

As increasing property values provide increased revenue at a fixed tax rate, I propose that we draw a line in the sand regarding the tax rate. Reject these two warrant articles and demand that all future budgets remain tax rate neutral.

Jim Peschke
Croydon, NH

Cathy's Piece

Thank you for allowing me to speak. My name is Cathy Peschke I live on Barton Road. I am the mother of two young children. I am asking that we reject this budget for a number of reasons.

1. Depending on which economist you follow we have either been in a recession for four months or about to enter a recession. This means we face tough times ahead the budget should be cut to reflect at minimum an increase no greater that than the CPI.

2. Gas prices and heating prices are on the rise. A tax increase this large is difficult enough for our friends and neighbors on fixed incomes but they are also facing increased gas and heating prices.

3. Food prices are on the rise. Our school board is elected to primarily to represent the taxpayers. Budget increases beyond the CPI are not in the best interest of taxpayers when faced with rising food prices.

4. Besides increased property taxes it is very likely that working residents are going to be faced with an income tax in the next year or two. Many towns have passed warrant articles rejecting the anti-tax pledge. The actions of the Claremont attorneys lawsuit against the state regarding an "adequate education" is about to come to fruition. Despite our legislators bowing to the court decision bought on by this lawsuit, the attorneys have already said they will sue again because it is not enough money. If an income tax is imposed we will not see a proportional decrease in property taxes. A historical analysis of all 50 states have seen this to be true.

5. The housing market has hit a wall. Those who work in the housing industry suffer as well as those with retirement accounts invested in the housing industry.

6. Year after year we have seen education costs rise much faster than the rate of inflation. This is not being fiscally responsible with Croydon taxpayers' hard earned dollars. Yet with the increases in education spending we do not see any proportional increases in performance of our students here in Croydon or in Newport. I believe it is wrong to constantly ask the people of Croydon to pay larger and larger taxes and not be fiscally responsible with our tax dollars. The school boards job is not to make sure school employees keep their jobs. When times are tough jobs may need to be cut back just like in the private sector. These people are not entitled to a job. We as taxpayers must reduce areas of our budget when you take more of our dollars we in turn can not go to our employees to demand more money to cover those increases. It is time for the school board to be more frugal with our dollars. Providing services to children at the expense of impoverishing their parents and grandparents is NOT "caring", it is selfish.

7. The taxpayers of Croydon have seen cuts in benefits, health care and retirement from their employees yet we the taxpayers are paying for benefits for the school employees that far exceed our very own. We also do not have the luxury of having a constitutionally backed pension. It is time for us to ask our employees to take on a greater burden of said benefits instead of putting the burden on the taxpayers shoulders.

8. Lastly I believe we need to have a way for those who believe that the schools need money to donate money to our schools.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

PTA's and PTO's hijacked by the teachers' unions.

Teachers, teacher unions and school administrators do not want what is best for parents and their children they want what is best for their agendas and themselves.

The following is a series of must read snippets of articles and links to the stories for parents and those truly interested in education reform.

The first site is by Michael Hodges. His site is rather inclusive and is a one stop site with a plethora of information for parents. Below is a taste of some of the information you will find on his site.

Unions - monopoly control with zero interest in education quality - should be abolished - by former union employee.
Demise of the PTA - 75% drop
Actions - downsize and decentralize, and privatize where possible
Sand-bagging Reform Tactics - used by organizations in attempt to 'sandbag' a test project.
Public schools no place for teachers' kids - 25% send their kids to private schools

Education Quality-to-spending Productivity Index dropped since teachers unionized in 1962

Additionally, we have seen that the education quality to cost productivity index started dropping some time after 1960. Consider this: "Since 1962, when teachers were first allowed to unionize, the public school system has been a system that benefits and answers to the producers of education, not to the consumers. 88% of America's schools are government schools, and 75% of the teachers are union members." John Fund, Editorial Board Wall Street Journal, May 1998 Imprimis volume 27, #5. And, as the president of the American Federation of Teachers recently said: "I will begin to care about the quality of children's education in this country when they start paying union dues." Al Shanker, union president.

To view more of this story go to Grandfather Education Report. To view Michael Hodges main education page go to Grandfather Education Report summary page. This link is extremely important for any parent or grandparent that truly cares about education. Please make an effort to share it with all your friends and neighbors.

This second site is called INTRODUCTION TO: THE TEACHER UNIONS by Myron Lieberman.

The National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO (AFT) are the nation's largest teacher unions. These unions are the major components of "the education establishment," and they play an extremely influential role, not just in education but in politics and the economy as well.

To read the rest of the story go to INTRODUCTION TO: THE TEACHER UNIONS by Myron Lieberman.

The third site is how The PTA Plays Hooky from Educational Reform on the Hoover Institution's website.

Teachers-union influence. National PTA policies, which often are automatically adopted as state and local PTA policies, reflect the dominant influence of the teachers unions, especially the National Education Association (NEA).
Of these factors, by far the most important is the last. Parents and teachers in the PTA both claim to share the same goal: promoting the educational welfare of children. But the PTA's governance structure, in which unionized teachers play a major role, is fatally flawed. Fundamentally, parents and their children are the consumers of education; teachers are part of the producer complex. Elevating the interests of the producers above the interests of the consumers is a formula for irrelevance. In the last 12 months, I have attended two national PTA meetings and five state conventions, and I cannot recall a single instance in which any policy contrary to the interests of teachers unions was given a proper hearing.

To read more go to the Hoover Institution's website.

The following is a chart from Michael Hodges website Grandfather Education Report

Quote of the Day - "Providing services to children at the expense of impoverishing their parents and grandparents is NOT "caring", it is selfish." - Jim Peschke - Parent and Co-founder of Citizen's for Reasonable And Fair Taxes.